Brisbane: He’s the most talked about man in cruise shipping at the moment, something this media hungry tycoon relishes. In an exclusive interview with Maritime CEO Australian mining tycoon Clive Palmer opens up about the inspiration behind his ambitious bid to build a replica of the world’s most famous cruise ship.
When Palmer announced last year his intentions to build Titanic II, resurrecting another famous name from the past, Blue Star Line, in the process, Maritime CEO writers were quick to grab a hold of the nearest calendar to check it was not an April Fool’s joke. However, in a candid interview with this site, Palmer stresses the project is for real, and that the first sailing from Southampton will take place as planned in 2016.
With a net worth of $895m according to Forbes predominantly from mining Palmer has the money for such huge investments.
Palmer says James Cameron’s mega blockbuster Titanic movie was the inspiration for this foray into the cruise sector.
“The seeds of my interest in building Titanic II were sown when I first saw that movie,” he recounts.
“When I read more about the Titanic I was just fascinated by the story and the opulence of the first class section on the ship and the sheer courage shown by the passengers and crew in the face of adversity,” he says.
Almost deadpanning some of Cameron’s leaden script, Palmer continues, “Titanic was a ship of dreams and Titanic II will be the ship where dreams come true.”
Palmer’s Blue Star Line has chosen CSC Jinling Shipyard to build the ship, a yard where Palmer, via another subsidiary Queensland Nickel Group, placed an order for four 64,000dwt bulkers last year.
As it stands, just a memorandum of understanding has been signed between Blue Star and CSC Jinling, with many skeptical as to when and if a proper contract will be forthcoming, something Palmer is quick to dismiss.
“We’re still going through the final contract process so I can’t provide a time for when that will be completed,” Palmer admits, before adding: “There are no major issues and we still expect the ship will be built in time for the maiden voyage in 2016.”
The shipyard is keen to get moving on the project. Over the weekend Chinese state media reported the boss of CSC Jinling, Ge Biao, being “fully prepared” for the construction of the replica.
“We thought a great way for the Chinese to break into the luxury shipbuilding market and give the Europeans some healthy competition would be to build a 21st century version of the Titanic,” Palmer says, declining to reveal the cost of the project.
While Titanic II will focus on the transatlantic like its predecessor Palmer said it could sail to other destinations in Asia and Australia as well as be available for corporate events.
Still before all of that, Palmer still needs to get his pen out and sign the contract for this ship, something that he should feel optimistic about given all the reported interest from around the world, with thousands trying to sign up for the maiden voyage already.
Amid a large marketing blitz in Macau and Hong Kong over the weekend James McDonald, Blue Star Line’s global marketing director James McDonald, claimed: “We’ve probably had half a dozen people already offering more than $1m to get on the maiden voyage.” [20/02/13]